With the Sustainability Research Initiative, SCNAT, together with its sister institutions, promotes research on sustainable development and 2030 Agenda. It focuses on the joint handling of social issues of higher priority in overarching consortia.more

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Dealing with Synergies, Trade-offs, and Common Threads

Dealing with Synergies, Trade-offs, and Common Threads - Priority themes sustainability research
Image: Hansjakob Fehr

Using six priority themes, the "White Paper on Sustainability Research" outlines Switzerland's most urgent research needs in order to meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

The all-encompassing ambition of sustainable development requires the pursuit of many important goals in parallel. This frequently involves co-benefits among some goals and trade-offs among others. Progress towards achieving the SDGs will require systemic research aimed at identifying, understanding, and prioritizing interactions among sustainability goals.

Key unresolved questions

How should science identify which interrelations need
to be considered, at what scale, and including which
indirect effects? How and under what circumstances
can the complexity of interrelated sustainability goals be reduced? Which methods and tools can support this
– How can experts in science and practice systemically account for synergies and trade-offs among goals, e.g.
when developing transformation options or progress
monitoring at the subnational, national, and interna -
tional level?

Key questions include:
– How can synergies and trade-offs related to change strategies of different sectors be anticipated and dealt with?
Are there exemplary case studies relating to the five priorities presented in this white paper?
– Which political and administrative systems are addressed by the five topics? How can collaboration be designed to cope with the complex interdependencies implicit in the respective sustainable development
– How can the private sector be enlisted to respect the key
potential synergistic and conflicting sustainability goals affected by their concrete business activities?

Key questions include:

– What scientific evidence is there about interactions between the priority topics presented here and about underlying causalities? Are these simple causalities or
complex systems of causes, e.g. forming positive and
negative feedback loops? Are causalities identified in a specific case and socio-ecological context generalizable, independent of case and context?
– How can science address the causal links between priority topics in a systemic way? How can science account for underlying causalities in the practice of everyday research? For instance, how can be ensured that a concept of wealth developed in one priority area is considered
in other areas? How can new economic paradigms and actions suggested in one area be prevented from creating new dilemmas in the way the economy is understood elsewhere?

Read White Paper on Sustainability Research: